Canucks claim Northwest title
The Vancouver Canucks can finally take a breather — at least until the Stanley Cup playoffs begin next week.
The Canucks clinched the Northwest Division and the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference after defeating the lowly Colorado Avalanche 1-0 in overtime Saturday in Denver.
Henrik Sedin scored 40 seconds into the extra period to give Vancouver its third straight victory.
Goaltender Roberto Luongo made 22 saves to earn his ninth shutout of the season, extending his personal best.
"The great thing is this team is playing really well defensively," said Luongo, the team captain. "It cuts down on the number of big saves I have to make."
The Canucks (45-27-10) finish the season with 100 points, two ahead of the Calgary Flames (46-30-6), and lock up home-ice advantage.
"A lot of people thought we wouldn't be able to accomplish this," said Canucks forward Alex Burrows. "We were 14 or 15 points behind Calgary in January, and nobody probably thought it was possible. But we kept working and got better."
Calgary concluded its regular season with a 4-1 win against the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday night at the Pengrowth Saddledome.
Leading the Northwest through much of the season, the Flames drop to the fifth seed and must begin the post-season on the road against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Colorado goaltender Peter Budaj was as brilliant as his counterpart, stopping 32 shots.
With both goaltenders on top of their game, it was only fitting the deciding goal came following an unlucky bounce.
Henrik Sedin took a pass from his brother, Daniel, skated around the Colorado net before banking the puck off the left skate of Avalanche defenceman Scott Hannan and between the legs of Budaj.
"I was throwing it across to Daniel on the other side, and I was just lucky it hit his skate and went in," he said. "It's nice to get the win."
Luongo, Budaj trade spotlight
The netminders took turns stealing the spotlight for their respective teams. The Canucks outshot Colorado 19-8 in the first period, but Budaj turned aside every single puck.
The Avalanche responded by dominating the second, firing 10 shots at Luongo. The Vancouver veteran didn't flinch, stopping all oncoming shots.
The Canucks were happy to protect a scoreless tie in the third to ensure the one-point they needed to clinch the division. Sedin's overtime goal was simply a bonus.
"You're always trying to play smart in a 0-0 hockey game," said defenceman Willie Mitchell. "With a division title on the line, you're a little more aware of it. This is a really good feeling."
Colorado (32-44-5), which owns the third-worst record in the NHL, finishes a dreadful season that included serious injuries to its three most important forwards — Joe Sakic, Paul Stastny and Ryan Smyth.
The NHL club also received mostly subpar goaltending from Budaj and Andrew Raycroft, coming into Saturday's game with the fifth-worst goals-against average.
It all adds up to the Avalanche being entered in the NHL draft lottery on Tuesday. One of five teams will secure the No. 1 spot in the June entry draft with the chance at landing the consensus No. 1 pick, John Tavares.
On a positive note, Colorado winger Ian Laperriere played in his 1,000th game on Saturday. A part of several trade rumours before the deadline in March, Laperriere finished with seven goals and 19 points this season, and will be an unrestricted free agent this summer.
"It is meaningful," said Laperriere. "If I look back at my career, it's my effort that I'm proudest of … I worked hard so I could play into my 30s, and I'm still playing hard at 35."
With files from the Associated Press